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AIRVG 2024 – Croatia

Aviation Day in Velika Gorica

On the 11th of May 2024, the City of Velika Gorica under the auspices of the Government of the Republic of Croatia organised the event AIRVG2024 to promote aviation in Croatia and Velika Gorica as the “Aviation City”, and the emphasis of this year’s edition was on the modernisation of aviation and the promotion for military pilots, aviation technicians, and other professions in aviation.

This year’s event attracted a large number of aviation enthusiasts from across Europe and beyond for what could be the last chance to see the notorious Mig-21 flying a solo display in Europe and the first public appearance of the Croatian Air Force Rafale that will soon take over the role of front line fighter.

The static display took place on the general aviation apron in front of the old terminal at Dr. Franjo Tuđman International Airport. It featured a remarkable lineup of Croatian Air Force aircraft rarely seen outside the country. Leading the display was the Bell 206B Jet Ranger from the 393 Helicopter Squadron based in Zadar. Next were a Bell OH-58D and a UH-60M from the 194 Utility Helicopter Squadron based in Zagreb Pleso, a Mil Mi-171Sh from the 194 Utility Helicopter Squadron, at Zagreb Lučko, and the only international participant for neighboring Slovenia an AS532AL from the 151 Helicopter Squadron.

Opposite to the Helicopter lineup were two fixed-wing trainer aircraft of the Croatian Air Force, a PC-9M, and a Zlin Z242L trainer, both assigned to the 392 Aviation Squadron in Zadar. The organisers met the anticipated demand by displaying three MiG-21s on the static ramp. Leading the lineup was MiG-21R 26112, affectionately called ‘Rudijev MiG’ in honour of the legendary Croatian fighter pilot Rudolf Perešin and his historic defection during the Croatian War of Independence. Next was the eye-catching checker MiG-21UMD depicting the Croatian coat of arms and standard colours airframe carrying serial number 133.

The flying display began with a dazzling performance by ‘Krila Oluje’ (Wings of Storm), followed by a solo demonstration of the Zlin Z242L showcasing its capabilities. A simulated CSAR scenario, featuring a paratrooper jump from a Mi-171Sh and fast-roping maneuvers, captivated the audience. The event’s highlight was the flying display of a MiG-21 alongside a Rafale F-3R, marking a historic moment in aviation as this could be the last MiG-21 flying display in Europe and the debut of the Croatian Rafale F-3R publicly at the same event.

After a pause for commercial traffic, a Bell 206B Jet Ranger took to the skies for a dynamic display, The event concluded with a farewell from ‘Krila Oluje’ (Wings of Storm), who performed a few impressive passes before returning to their home base.

Despite bidding adieu to the last operational MiG-21 in Europe, the type will continue serving the Balkan state until obtaining operational readiness qualification on the Rafale in the future. We extend our gratitude to AIRVG for organising the event and wish for more such events, providing audiences with the opportunity to experience the captivating world of aviation up close.